This summer, social media was abuzz with information about the widespread private jet usage by many celebrities despite the negative environmental impact of private jet travel. Celebrities like Kylie Jenner were criticized for extensive private jet use, especially on short flights. Jenner had been documented taking a 17-minute private flight between two California cities, instead of a 40-minute car ride, which would have produced significantly fewer emissions. Jenner likewise drew ire for an Instagram post that critics said made light of her and her boyfriend Travis Scott’s private jet use.
Taylor Swift’s private jet use was also critiqued after it was revealed that a plane she owned had the highest amount of emissions when compared to other celebrity private jets. Swift’s publicist addressed this issue, claiming that Swift herself was not solely responsible for the significant private jet use as she frequently loans her plane for others to use. However, this does not change the fact that regardless of who is flying, Swift’s plane still had a larger carbon footprint last year than over 1,000 average people combined.
The topic of celebrities refusing to take action to help protect the environment has also been discussed surrounding a situation in California, where multiple celebrities have come under fire for their excessive water usage in the drought-stricken state. California is currently in the midst of the catastrophic drought, with the drinking water of more than 350,000 Californians having been imperiled in the last few years.
However, it was recently revealed that many celebrities have exceeded their water allocation by significant amounts. Sylvester Stallone, Dwyane Wade, Kevin Hart and Kourtney Kardashian all received a “notice of exceedance” from the water authority for using substantially more water than they were allocated. Kourtney Kardashian’s property exceeded its June water allocation by over 100,000 gallons, and her sister Kim Kardashian was reported to have used nine years’ worth of water in just one month.
The typical recourse for water over usage, fines, is likely to be a much less effective deterrent against celebrities for whom a weighty fine is a mere slap on the wrist. Another possible consequence is the installation of water flow restrictors, which can reduce the amount of water supplied to the houses. However, it is unclear if any celebrities have faced these repercussions.
The impotence of fines as a deterrent against the wealthy speaks to fundamental inequalities of the climate crisis. The impacts of the climate crisis will almost certainly have a more pronounced impact on low-income people — the vast majority of whom bear little culpability for the present crisis — with a recent Environmental Protection Agency study finding that “the most severe harms from climate change fall disproportionately upon underserved communities.”
There is an understandable feeling of frustration and disappointment from many people about how wealthy, famous individuals do not use their resources for good. Many of these celebrities have immense followings and the money and connections to help make a difference on climate issues. Even some celebrities who have spoken out about climate issues have been accused of a double standard for their private jet use. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, who have all supported environmental causes, have been criticized for taking private plane flights. Instead of using their power and privilege to help the environment, we see far too many celebrities setting the wrong example with their actions.
For many people, including myself, it is easy to look at the actions of these celebrities and feel a sense of apathy about our climate-related actions.
One may wonder whether the small contributions of using a reusable bag or forgoing watering your lawn are really necessary, especially when you think of the actions taken by celebrities and those in power. However, we must not let the actions of others lead us to despair or discourage us from making personal choices to promote sustainability. If enough people commit themselves to being more environmentally conscious, collective actions can still have a significant impact.
At the same time, it is also critical that people continue to use their voices and actions to hold celebrities accountable for their climate actions. Through social media critiques, ticket sales and public pressure, we all have the power to send a message to celebrities and those in power about the importance of making conscious decisions to reduce their environmental footprint.
Isabelle Schindler is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org